Monday Night Football features The Chicago Bears traveling to Candlestick Park to take on the San Francisco 49ers. This will be a contest featuring arguably the two top defenses in the NFL. Here we see just how dominating these defeses have been.
Total yards: 49ers - 3rd, Bears - 5th
Passing defense: 49ers - 5th, Bears - 10th
Rushing defense: 49ers - 6th, Bears - 4th
Points per game: 49ers - 1st, Bears - 2nd
Points per game is the stat that matters most to the coaches, and these are the two stingiest teams in the NFL for giving up points. So those looking for a shootout on Monday Night Football will probably be disappointed. Especially considering Jay Cutler has been ruled out for the Bears and Alex Smith is recovering from a concussion, and not expected to start for the 49ers. Each team will look for one of their superstars to win a match-up, and tell the story of the game.
Bears Offense vs. 49ers Defense
Jason Campbell will start in place of a concussed Jay Cutler on Monday Night. The Bears coaches have confidence in Campbell to effectively run their offense, and given the 49ers capability against the run, it will be important for Campbell to make plays. Brandon Marshall is the best wide receiver on either team, and veteran cornerback Carlos Rodgers is mismatched against Marshall one on one. The 49ers will look to double Marshall to eliminate their primary receiver. Chicago gets Alshon Jeffery back after missing four weeks with a hand injury, and watching him and Tarell Brown face off will be a match up to watch. San Francisco boasts one of the best linebacker corps in the league, and Patrick Willis and Navarro Bowman will be tested again this week after the 49ers have given up 100 yard rushers in three of their last four games. Matt Forte will look pin another 100-yard effort against San Francisco, but with the 49er defense less concerned about the pass, Forte may not have any room to run. Chicago may look to exploit an overaggressive San Francisco defense with dump-offs to Forte in the flat. Pass protection has been an issue for the Bears, 28th in the NFL with 28 sacks, and 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith is having another Pro-Bowl season. Already with 9.5 sacks this season, 49ers defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio likes to rush Smith from multiple spots during the course of a game, wherever he can get a one on one match on the offensive line. The 49ers will look to contain Forte, and hope to create turnovers while getting pressure rushing only four. The Bears will hope to establish the run to take pressure off their replacement quarterback, while calling plays for Campbell to manage the game safely, and hope their defense puts them in position to win.
49ers Offense vs. Bears Defense
In what is now confirmed to be the battle of the backup quarterbacks, it looks as though Alex Smith will not play for San Francisco. It was questionable if Smith was going to play or not, it would have been smart for the Bears to prepare to see Colin Kaepernick as well. Kaepernick lends well to what the 49ers love to do, run the ball. Kaepernick is averaging 8.4 yards per carry, and with Kendall Hunter also running the ball effectively, San Francisco’s running game is more than just Frank Gore.
Gore is the gas in the 49er engine though, averaging 5.4 yards per carry for 753 yards 5 touchdowns and 19 receptions for 139 yards this year. The 49ers lead the league with their versatile power heavy rushing attack. Chicago’s defense is stingy against the run, to say the least. Charles Tillman is having an MVP type of season, top 3 on the team in tackles, and leading the NFL with seven forced fumbles. Tillman’s punch move is the stuff of legend, and with Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher still governing the middle of that defense, running on the Bears isn’t easy.
The Chicago passing defense thrives off the turnover, and is always looking to score. The Bears lead the NFL with 19 interceptions this year, and 7 defensive touchdowns. Tim Jennings leads the NFL with 8 interceptions, and Tillman is as good against the pass as he is against the run. Julius Peppers is the disruptor for the Bears defensive line, and Peppers against veteran left tackle Joe Staley will be another match to watch. The pressure and disruptive influence Peppers provides is a key factor for the Bears defense.
The 49ers are lucky to have Kaepernick for this game, although Smith is more of a threat to pass than Kaepernick. Kaepernick is a multi-threat quarterback, and that ability may become critical in this game. The Bears have struggled against running quarterbacks. Using the run to set up the play action will be critical. The 49ers have worked the play action to Michael Crabtree well to the tune of 3 touchdowns in the last 2 games. Vernon Davis is in a little slump, but his threat as a weapon in the passing game isn’t lessened one bit, as Davis will still demand attention over the middle. Utilizing Davis and Randy Moss as threats of a deep attack has been key to the 49er success this year. Chicago plays tough run defense and looks for the turnover against the pass, and that system has worked wonders. Look for the 49ers to run the ball on Chicago, while attempting to exploit the play action for big gains.
In what seems destined to be a game of field position, one big play on special teams may lend to a victory. Both the 49ers and the Bears have playmakers on special teams. Former 49er Blake Costanzo is now a special teams standout for the Bears, and Devin Hester is one of the most dangerous weapons in the NFL. Hester is the NFL all time leader in special teams touchdowns, but has yet to record one this season. Ted Ginn and Kyle Williams are legitimate threats as San Francisco’s returners. Ginn has shown the ability to score touchdowns on special teams, while Williams has been consistent returning punts this year, after being victimized in last years NFC championship game with a critical fumble on a punt return.